What started as a Clemson University research project is turning into a global business that could supply diabetics with the low-cost testing equipment they need to manage their blood sugar.
The product, GlucoSense, is aimed at helping diabetics in developing countries and other “resource-poor settings” do the daily testing that can help them prevent potentially fatal complications.
The student-led GlucoSense team has started a company, Accessible Diagnostics, with doctoral student Kayla Gainey serving as chief technology officer.
Greenville businessmen John Warner and Brian McSharry are also co-founders and are serving as executive leadership during the start-up phase. The company has a commitment of $500,000 in private investment from Concepts to Companies, also run by Warner and McSharry.
Delphine Dean, who is also a co-founder, is the company’s technology adviser and Clemson’s Gregg-Graniteville Associate Professor of Bioengineering.
With four awards to its credit, GlucoSense is launching with wind in its sails.
“Most of the research is done,” Gainey said. “We still need to do some final design changes to get to our final product. We’re hoping by the end of the next year that it could be ready to sell.”
Accessible Diagnostics is working with Clemson University Research Foundation to license intellectual property related to the product.
GlucoSense works much the same as glucometers and test strips that can be bought in any pharmacy. Diabetics prick their finger, dab blood on a strip and then insert it into the glucometer to test their blood sugar.
A key difference is that GlucoSense is made from readily available parts that can be found in any U.S. electronics store or bought in bulk and shipped to remote parts of the world.
The product helps overcome one of the biggest challenges in providing medical equipment to the developing world. Unreliable shipping routes make it difficult and time-consuming to deliver the equipment.
If a product has an expiration date, as test strips do, the clock is ticking.
“What we’ve done is come up with an easy manufacturing practice,” Dean said. “We ship the manufacturing materials and then the customer makes them on-site.”
The test strips are printed for about five cents each by rigging a conventional ink-jet printer to shoot enzymes instead of ink.
The potential cost savings is huge. Commercially available test strips sell for as much as $1 each, and many diabetics need to use five or more a day.
Testing helps maintain blood sugar levels. When blood sugar is too high, diabetics need to take insulin. They need to eat when blood sugar is too low.
Failing to maintain blood sugar levels can lead to complications, including kidney disease, high blood pressure, stroke, neuropathy, ketoacidosis and gastroparesis.
Martine LaBerge, chair of the bioengineering department, said the private investment and multiple awards show that GlucoSense is more than a common research project.
“There is clearly a need for GlucoSense,” she said. “I congratulate past and present team members who have brought the project this far. They have all been part of something special and should be proud of themselves. GlucoSense has a bright future. With Kayla in the lead, it will surely go far.”
The team was mentored by Dean and John DesJardins, an associate professor of bioengineering, and financially supported by Clemson’s Creative Inquiry program. Several students have worked on the project, including Tyler Ovington and Alex Devon, who graduated in May and are both from Greenville.
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